The Day Ahead: AMD's quarter puts chief in gloating mode

Sanders seems pretty happy, but does AMD really have good reasons to be cheerful?

Commentary: The stars are lining up just right for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and the company is sounding downright cocky about it following its third quarter results.

If you listened to AMD chairman WJ Sanders III gloat on the company's earnings conference call, you had to wonder if there was a parallel tech universe somewhere. AMD shares have been hurt by worries about Intel, corporate PC demand and Europe. Turns out AMD is pretty insulated from all those problems.

AMD is benefiting from a booming flash memory business, which is fueled by demand for set-top boxes, wireless phones and other gadgets. AMD's corporate market share is small so it doesn't have Intel's worries. The company may have even benefited from a cheap euro since costs at its Dresden, Germany plant have fallen. Toss in decent consumer demand and you have an upside surprise.

AMD topped analysts' estimates in its third quarter Wednesday, earning $219.3m, or 64 cents a share, on sales of $1.2bn. The results brought out a host of Sanders-isms:

"Our business looked fine in Q3... I think we've gained market share."

"The PC market is pretty strong. The death of the PC market is overstated."

"We think more of the concern in the marketplace has more to do with the Wall Street analysts' misguided expectation that Intel could continue to grow."

"We think 2001 will be extremely strong and we'll have trouble meeting demand."

"We have excellent visibility for flash memory at least through next year."

Sanders even had a good quip for his company's one problem in the quarter -- Duron sales were hampered by chipset availability. "I think even Intel missed an introduction once in awhile," he said.

And that's just the short version of Sanders' euphoria.

Looking ahead, AMD said it expects to sell out all of its Athlon processors in the fourth quarter. It expects sales of the Athlon, Duron and other PC processors to set new records in both units shipped and total sales. For the year, AMD said it will sell more than 28 million units, up from 18.8 million units in fiscal 1999.

Company officials said it will sell between 8 million to 9 million units in the quarter, representing about 20 percent of the 43 million to 45 million units expected to ship for the entire industry in the quarter.

Not too shabby overall. In fact, AMD posted "a terrific quarter". Just ask Sanders.

I've listened to just about every major tech chief yap on conference calls, but I have to say Sanders is one of the more entertaining execs. Can you just imagine Oracle's Larry Ellison and Sanders on a conference call together?

We don't think there's enough bandwidth to handle the hot air, but it would be better than most sitcoms. Consider Ellison and Sanders the dynamic duo of earnings conference calls.

So what makes an interesting conference call? You just need a dash of WWF. Oracle's Ellison can't stop himself from taking swipes at his rivals, notably his B2B chums. Ellison figures if he talks enough he may move up one spot to be tech's richest man.

As for Sanders, you can't help but chuckle at his digs at Intel and financial analysts, who reluctantly got behind AMD after a few good quarters. In Sanders' view, Intel will soon be roadkill even though the giant is way more diversified -- it's hosting an e-business conference of all things.

However, Intel's diversification into communications chips and e-business markets may have taken its eye off the ball. Now AMD is gloating.

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